In a column written this week by Maggie Gallagher she states the following…
This Father's Day, some 24 million American children will sleep in fatherless homes. So this Sunday, if you were lucky enough to know the love of a father, thank him. Oh, and if your kids wake up Sunday morning in the home of a loving father, thank your husband. (Maggie Gallagher ©2004 Universal Press Syndicate)
We know that God designed the family and intended for children to be raised by a Dad and a Mom. Unfortunately, we live in a fallen world and there are many children who don’t have both parents in the home. The feminist movement and recently the push for same-sex marriage have undermined the importance of both a dad and mom in bringing up children.
So this Father’s Day we’re reminded that children need their Dad. Not only do children need their fathers our country needs Godly fathers who love their wives and love their children and are actively involved in the family.
This morning we’re going to look at a text that isn’t directed only to fathers as some other well-known passages of Scripture are. Yet we will see how Paul’s words apply to fathers today and how this passage can encourage Dads and all of us today in our homes and in our church. Look with me at Philippians 1:7-8.
Philippians 1:7 just as it is right for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart, inasmuch as both in my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers with me of grace. 8 For God is my witness, how greatly I long for you all with the affection of Jesus Christ
When we think of Paul we think of a man of strength. He strongly proclaimed the gospel through even the most adverse circumstances. He suffered through shipwrecks, imprisonment and beatings and his faith never wavered. He stood firm. He was bold. He wasn’t afraid to shoot straight. He told the truth even when it wasn’t popular. He was a man of firm convictions.
He was also a man of great joy. We saw his joy last week and some of the keys to his joy. This morning I want you to see the tender heart Paul had. Paul had a deep affection for the Philippian believers.
Martin Luther once said…
The higher people are in the favor of God, the more tender they are. (Martin Luther, Leadership, Vol. 8, no. 2.; Bible Illustrator)
That was true of Paul. A look at Paul’s life clearly reveals his Godliness and in our study this morning we clearly see his tenderness.
We’re going to examine the characteristics of Paul’s love and we’ll see the importance of this kind of love today. If you are a father and you desire to honor God in the life of your family and you desire to make a difference in the world you live in then modeling Paul’s love in your own life will be a necessity.
This applies to everyone. Modeling Paul’s love for others will be a necessity if we desire to have an impact for the cause of Christ.
These characteristics of Paul’s love can and should be applied to all of us. The church at large today is in desperate need of revival. It’s time that all followers of Jesus Christ realize the importance of displaying a Christ-like love to the lost world we live in and then live that Christ-like love. If we as a church desire to be more than a social club and truly be a powerful force for change in the lives of sinners we must grasp and live this kind of God honoring love for others.
Paul’s Love was Right
The first characteristic of Paul’s love I want you to see is that Paul’s love was right. His deep affection and love for them was right. His fondness for them was right in the sense that it was obedience to God’s command. It wasn’t simply just appropriate for Paul to feel this way but it was his moral obligation. His love for his brothers and sisters in Christ was the kind of love that God required of Paul and the same kind of love God requires of all His children.
As it says in 1 John 4:11…
1 John 4:11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
Paul’s love for the Philippians was right. Imagine if Paul had not communicated his love for them in his letter. By writing to them of his affection, the Philippians could be encouraged by Paul’s heart of compassion.
Henry Ward Beecher once wrote…
Do not keep the alabaster boxes of your love and tenderness sealed up until your friends are dead. Fill their lives with sweetness. Speak approving, cheering words while their ears can hear them and while their hearts can be thrilled by them. (Henry Ward Beecher 91813-1887)
I think we often miss opportunities to encourage others by not expressing the love and tenderness we feel toward them. Think of the encouragement Paul’s words brought when they were read by the church at Philippi.
As Dads we would do well to follow Paul’s example and express our affection for our children just as he expressed his affection for the Philippian believers. All of us would do well to follow Paul’s example and make sure we let our family and our friends and our brothers and sisters in Christ know of our affection for them.
Loving others is the right thing to do. It’s especially the right thing for fathers to do. This world needs Godly men who will show their children how much they love them by not only providing for them but also by being there for them and disciplining them and disciplining them when it’s needed.
We need to love our children. It’s right! We need to take opportunities to express our love for our children. Even if your children are grown and out of the home they never outgrow the need for their father’s affection.
The phrase I have you in my heart refers to his feelings and thoughts. (New Testament Commentary Philippians, Hendriksen, p 56)
The thoughts and feelings of the heart reveal what we really are. Matthew 15:19 notes that if the heart is evil that’s what will be revealed, for out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.
But a life instructed by and obedient to God’s Word will reveal something different. 1 Timothy 1:5 (NLT) says, The purpose of my instruction is that all the Christians there would be filled with love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and sincere faith.
It wasn’t that Paul just had a special feeling for them. It wasn’t that Paul was trying to gain their favor for more support. These weren’t just Paul’s sentimental feeling toward them. There’s a sincerity in Paul’s love for the Philippian believers that goes far beyond sentimentality. Paul’s love was right.
And this is how we are to love our families, fathers. Our families need our hearts, our deepest love.
And our love for one another in the church must be right. We’re to have a deep and sincere love for others that isn’t easily offended. We’re to have the kind of love that overlooks on opportunity to have our feelings hurt. As fellow believers in the body of Christ, as we grow more Christ-like, we are bound together in unity—not uniformity but unified in the likeness of Christ.
This brings us to another characteristic of Paul’s love.
Paul’s Love was for Faithful Friends
The Philippian believers had stood by Paul through his imprisonment and also through his defense of the gospel. That’s what we see in verse 7 …inasmuch as both in my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel…
This defense and confirmation of the gospel could be referring to Paul defending himself during his imprisonment and trial in Rome or it could have referred to his ministry in general of defending the gospel. (MacArthur, J. F. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Philippians (electronic ed.) (Php 1:9).)
Whatever the case, it’s clear the Philippians were partakers with Paul of grace. They shared in the same gift of salvation that Paul had and they also participated in Paul’s ministry in spreading the gospel as well as ministering the gospel themselves.
The Philippians were faithful friends to Paul. They were there in the good times and the bad times. They had a special bond with Paul from all of the joys and difficulties they had shared. They weren’t just fair weather friends. They were faithful friends who were supportive even through difficulties and trials.
The example of the Philippian believers who stood by Paul even in adversity is one we should imitate. Dads need to persevere through the difficulties with their families. They need to be there for them even through trying times. We need homes where we stay together through adversity. Instead of walking away when dissatisfied with life, we need faithful, committed, God honoring fathers in our homes.
This doesn’t only apply to Dads either. We need this kind of faithful commitment to each other in the church. We need a deep love for faithful friends that creates in us a desire to see our way through difficulties together. I believe one of the ways Satan sees victory in many churches and stunts effect growth and hinders the impact of the church in the community is through the plight of church hopping.
There seems to be a tendency especially in Bible believing evangelical churches for a great number of people to constantly be going from one church to another. The cycle is usually one of spending a few years in a church that at first seems like the perfect fit and then things start to wear on us and we begin to feel unloved and uncared for and so we tell ourselves that God wants me happy so He must want me in another church. It’s easy to get caught in the trap of hopping around from church to church. If a difficulty arises or things don’t go our way we simply move on instead of remaining where we are and allowing God to work out the details. It isn’t just churchgoers either.
Church hoping can afflict pastors as well. For churches nationwide the average stay of a pastor is just three years. (Thom Rainer, How to Keep People in Your Church, http://www.lifeway.com) This can be devastating to a church’s effectiveness.
We need to learn what it is to know the love of faithful friends. If we truly want to lead people to Christ and see lives changed we must be committed to faithfulness in our relationships in the home and in the church. A father must be committed to being faithful to his family. Those in the church must be committed to being faithful and loving to one another. And pastors must be committed to the long-term faithfulness to and love of those in the church.
This points us to the next characteristic of Paul’s love.
Paul’s Love was Sincere
In verse eight he says, For God is my witness how I long for you all. God knew Paul’s heart and Paul’s love was so true that he could say with confidence, God is my witness. His love for them was genuine. It wasn’t an act. He wasn’t just flattering the Philippian believers for what he could get out of them.
Paul’s sincerity wasn’t the kind Tommy Smothers spoke of when he said, “The best thing about getting older is that you gain sincerity. Once you learn to fake that, there's nothing you can't do.”
But sincerity can’t be faked. Benjamin Franklin wrote, “Truth and sincerity have a certain distinguishing native luster about them which cannot be perfectly counterfeited; they are like fire and flame that cannot be painted.”
We need Dads who genuinely and sincerely love their families. And I’m not talking about the kind of love the world offers. The world offers cheap substitutes to real love.
We’re often told that love is based on how you feel—it’s about your emotions and if where you’re at isn’t doing anything for you then move on. But that isn’t true Biblical love. We need love that comes from hearts that are obedient to God—love that does what is right and treats others right regardless of feelings.
We need this kind of love in our homes and in the church.
The next characteristic of his love was that,
Paul’s Love Filled Him with Longing
Paul longed for the Philippians. He longed to see them again and spend time with them. In Philippians 4:1 he speaks of this longing again. Listen to it from the NASB,
Therefore, my beloved brethren whom I long to see, my joy and crown, so stand firm in the Lord, my beloved.
Paul missed them and longed to see them again. And his longing was for all of them. Notice the words, you all in verse 8. He had a deep and genuine love for each and every believer at Philippi.
The longing he had for each of them is similar to the longing we see expressed in Psalm 42:1.
As the deer pants for the water brooks, So pants my soul for You, O God.
A thirsty deer longing for water pictures well the longing Paul had for the Philippians. We need Dads who long for their families. Do you enjoy spending time with your family? Do you look forward to being together? When your day is finished at work does the desire to be with your family make you anxious to get home just a little bit quicker? In a world that is trying to tear the family apart, we need Dads who long to spend time with their families.
Why is it men that we’ll spend so much time pursuing our hobbies and life’s pleasures rather than give to our families our best?
We need a longing and a desire for God’s glory in our families that will drive us as the deer pants for the water brook.
This kind of longing is needed in the church as well.
Do you long to meet together with your brothers and sisters in Christ? Do you look forward to gathering with other believers? Is it your longing to encourage and be encouraged by the family of God He’s called together in this church?
Another characteristic of his love was that,
Paul’s Love was Rooted in His Relationship with Christ
Paul longed for them with the affection of Jesus Christ. His affection for them overflowed from his life because of his relationship with Christ. He had a Christ-like love for them that was given to him by God.
And we’re going to see that Paul instructs them in what it is to love like Christ in Philippians 2:1-5 (NLT),
Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and sympathetic? 2 Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one heart and purpose. 3 Don’t be selfish; don’t live to make a good impression on others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourself. 4 Don’t think only about your own affairs, but be interested in others, too, and what they are doing. 5 Your attitude should be the same that Christ Jesus had.
We need men who will put their children ahead of themselves. We need men who won’t be selfish, who won’t be striving for glory in this life but for the reward of seeing his family living for Christ because of his faithful example.
Our homes and our churches need men who will lead from the front.
Chuck Holton, a former Army Ranger, in his book A More Elite Soldier says of leaders,
Poor leaders operate by the RHIP principle—Rank Hath Its Privileges. The Rangers taught that good leaders operate by the 3M principle: Mission, Men, then Me.
[There] was Sergeant First Class Kelly…He was tough on us in the field but always right there with us, sharing in everything that we did. [But our] first sergeant would sometimes follow us in his vehicle as we road-marched to the training site, but with Sergeant Kelly, if we were miserable, he was miserable.
It made all the difference in the world.
Though I don't believe he was a religious man, Sergeant First Class Kelly taught me something about why God chose to come to earth to save us instead of simply pulling the trigger on Satan from His heavenly throne. He did it in order to identify Himself with us and make it easier for us to identify with Him. There is something inherently noble in choosing to put oneself in the line of fire to save a brother rather than simply warning him about it from a safe place.
Christ did even more than that. Not only did He make Himself like us so that believers could better relate to God, He put Himself on the line for the very people who were against Him. (Chuck Holton, A More Elite Soldier, p.118-119)
We need men who will follow the example of Christ and put themselves on the line for their families and for God. We need men with tender hearts like Paul had. Men who love their families and aren’t afraid to show it. We need tender hearts in the home. We need tender hearts in the church.
The love we need is a love that only Christ can bring to a home or to a church. As we walk closely to Him, He’ll ingrain in us His love and it will pour out to those in our families and in our church.
Dads, do you have a tender heart for your family like Paul had for the Philippian believers? Do all of us have a tender heart for each other like Paul had? Can these characteristics of Paul’s love be found in your life?
Tender hearts like Paul had are joyful hearts. Let’s ask the Lord to give us tender hearts in our homes and in our church.
Kevin A. Pierpont
Higgins Lake Baptist Church